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First time playwright wins Verity Bargate Award

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Soho Theatre has awarded this year’s Verity Bargate Award to Matt Charman for his first play A Night at the Dogs, inspired by his time working in a crash repair shop in West Sussex.

Charman beat seven other writers to the prize – announced at a showcase of the plays at the venue – which included a cheque for £3,500 and a run at the theatre. The seven finalists had been whittled down from 700 entries from across the UK of which 193 were first time plays. He thanked the venue for the help it had given him and said he now wants to build on his award.

“I would absolutely love to just get my hands dirty. I feel so boosted by this and so encouraged and supported by Soho. I want to get cracking,” said Charman, who was also helped write a 40-minute musical that went to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year called Steven’s Last Night in Town.

“I had made scribblings before but it is my first full length play. I was in pantomimes as a kid and always doing things in the back garden but then got to university and grew up and was more interested in producing and getting new stuff together. When I left university I worked with these guys at the garage one year and it occurred to me they were incredibly interesting people and I just wanted to get it down.”

The Verity Bargate Award was established in 1981 in memory of the founder of Soho Theatre. Previous winners include Toby Whitehouse, who went on to write the BBC series No Angels and Diane Samuels who won with Kindertransport. This year’s judges included Kate Bassett, Peter Gill, Tanika Gupta and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Kwei-Armah was among the performers involved in the readthrough alongside Claire Goose, Susannah York and Bernard Gallagher among others.

Abigail Morris, artistic director, said: “Through the VBA we discover outstanding new plays and identify the playwrights of the future. With our unique Writers’ Centre, Soho Theatre can not only produce the winner but also develop the most promising of the other writers to emerge.”

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